Facing a must-win situation, Christopher Bell did just that, winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at ISM Raceway to clinch a spot in the Championship 4 at Miami.
Bell entered the race 34 points out from the final transfer spot. He started 38th after his No. 20 Toyota did not get through inspection in time to qualify.
The rookie marched through the field and took the lead for good on Lap 108 when he passed John Hunter Nemechek.
It is Bell’s seventh win of the season, a rookie record.
“I’ll be honest after (DNFs at) Kansas and Texas I kind of just accepted we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Bell told NBC. “Just came over here with a ‘Let’s have fun attitude.’ … We didn’t really make our way up front that fast. I kind of got stalled out once I got into the top 15. I knew this thing was really fast because yesterday in practice it was really good. That clean air just meant so much. My pit crew did an amazing job … We’re going to (Miami), baby.”
Justin Allgaier, who won five races this season, was eliminated from title contention. He placed 24th, one laps down after he lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go.
Elliott Sadler, who will not compete full-time after the end of the season, was also eliminated.
Austin Cindric and Matt Tifft were the other drivers eliminated.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier
STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Daniel Hemric earned his fifth runner-up finish without a Xfinity win … Matt Tifft placed third, his best result since he finished second at Road America … Austin Cindric earned his third top five in the last five races.
WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Akinori Ogata extended the series’ streak of incidents on Lap 1 to three races when he wrecked in Turn 3. He finished 33rd … After winning the first two stages, Justin Allgaier placed 24th, one lap down. He suffered damage from contact with John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 145. He then lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go, but finished the race.
NOTABLE: Chevrolet clinched its 19th manufacturer championship in the series at the start of the race … Christopher Bell’s seven wins are the most by a non-Cup driver in Xfinity since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won seven times in 1998.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ”Disappointment. At the end of the day we did everything right this year. We had a great season. Today we did everything right at the beginning part of the race. That was probably the most frustrating part. We led a lot of laps. We won both stages. All things considered it was going to be a great day. Ultimately at the end, getting ourselves in that bad position, getting caught up in that little of a crash and losing brakes. At that point it was survival, gain as many points as we can gain.” – Justin Allgaier after he was eliminated for title contention.
WHAT’S NEXT: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 17 on NBCSN